Dec. 15th, 2015

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
So, today over lunch I decided to read some stuff that wasn't mathematical economics, just to sort of remember there are other words out there.

Annnnnd so I read this Ask Bear column, and then I stewed for a while, and then I wrote this rushed, angry rant before I went back to my mathematical economics.

The letter in that column comes from a questioning 22 year old who is potentially starting down that "hang on, am I -- queer?" path that a lot of us have walked. I've walked it myself! It is scenic and has many twists and turns. The letter writer is in a very traditional and appropriate place for starting on that path: he (I'm assuming) has many questions and is not sure what comes next or what he has to do to be a good possibly queer person.

Bear's response, summarized: you can absolutely be queer, sounds like you might be, and oh, by the way, before you explore that queer identity at all, you'd better come out. To everyone. You have to, to be a good human.

I really wanted to believe Bear didn't tell a questioning 22 year old that he had to come out of the closet before he is allowed to see if he might potentially be queer. But I tweeted my rage (as is the custom of my people), and several Twitter friends got the same read from it, so I just want to remind everyone of something important.

No one can tell you that you have to come out. Not if they're queer, not if they're out, not if they're an activist, not if they are the Fairy Queen of the Queer Isles (my dream job!), never. (The one exception to this: your partner(s) in queerness get a say. But even they don't get to issue a fiat like Bear did in this letter.)

There are three major reasons for this.
  1. Coming out is a dangerous endeavor for many people in this world. And you are the best evaluator of your physical, emotional, and social safety. I think Bear may just have forgotten, since he apparently lives in a polytransqueer wonderland, that coming out can be risky. That his letter writer may have to face familial rejection, social rejection, harassment, homelessness, abuse -- that, in short, a lot of bad things might happen to the LW if he comes out. (Queer folks struggling with this issue, take heart: it is apparently entirely possible to get to a place in your life where you can forget this!) Bear may also have forgotten that those same things may also happen to the dude LW is into, and that they may together choose to be closeted for safety reasons, and that is absolutely fine. (It isn't fine that people have to make that choice, of course, but blaming people for picking the best of a number of bad options is classic oppressor bullshit, and I'm embarrassed to see any of my fellow queers doing it.)

  2. Coming out is a process, and the LW is at the very beginning of it. (People can be at the very beginning at any point in their lives. They can go back to the beginning at any point in their lives. And they can spend as long as they need to there. This is not some sort of board game, folks, where you can just pass go and collect your Queer Person ID.) Bear ordered him to go straight from starting college to taking the Bar Exam, without going through any of the intervening bits. But those bits are important, and they make you ready for the later bits, and only you, the queer person, know how you're doing in the process, or what you're ready for right now.

  3. You don't owe anyone your story. Let me repeat that, slightly louder: you don't owe anyone your story. Bear strongly implies that his questioning letter writer should come out because social justice. And, no, that is not a burden queer folks have to bear; we do not have to build a bridge to our own equality with our bare hands using bricks made out of our lives, our bodies, and our hearts. (Unless, of course, we choose to. Many of us make that choice, in big ways and small. But it's our choice to do that.)

    Many, many of our straight allies say the same thing in other words. For example, they say that gay people who come out are heroes, and gay people who make choices other than absolute and total openness are weak, and that is bullshit, and it's extremely harmful bullshit. You are not required to come out to Make the World Safe for Queers, you are not required to come out to Be a Good Queer, you are not required to come out for any reason at all ever except that you want to and are ready to. Your story is yours. You tell it how you want to, when you want to, if you want to
So, Bear's Letter Writer, if you're out there, here is some alternate advice from a different middle-aged queer who has come out a whole, whole, whole bunch:

Letter Writer, you can do whatever you want to with your guy (provided he consents, of course), with whatever level of disclosure you both agree on. It's important to be honest with him about where you are with respect to coming out, whether that is "I will actually have a panic attack if you touch me in public" or "I am totally okay with our friends knowing, but I cannot face having some kind of formal announcement right now" or "let's tell everyone including our extremely homophobic extended family members and then POST LOTS OF TOPLESS MAKING OUT PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK HA HA HA." (You may be in a different place than any of these, or experiencing a combination of all three. That's normal.) Then it's important to listen to what he says about where he is. If there's a big difference -- if you're at panic attacks and he's at Facebook, say -- then be aware that that is going to be an issue in your relationship, and be prepared to work on it.

Your queer journey is belongs to you, Letter Writer. You and those you choose to share it with are the only people who get to say how it goes, and that includes coming out, if you decide to do that. Speaking as a supportive bystander, though, I hope your queer journey is awesome. Good luck!

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thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
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